What Is an IBC Tank?

Elasticated Polythene Covers for IBC

An IBC tank, or intermediate bulk container, is a versatile, robust and hardwearing piece of industrial storage equipment designed to safely hold large quantities of liquids and semi-liquids.

IBC tanks are a stalwart feature of the industrial packaging world, offering a reusable and recyclable container that can hold everything from drinking water to hazardous chemicals.

In this article, we ask the experts at ITP Packaging to explain in more detail what an IBC tank is and why you need one.

What Is an IBC Tank?

IBCstands for intermediate bulk container, and it’s the name given to sturdy, robust containers that are primarily used to store large quantities of industrial liquids or semi-solids (such as water, chemicals, solvents, paints, oils, etc.).

The term ‘intermediate’ refers to the fact that most IBC tanks are built to hold an intermediate capacity of liquids, which is generally at the 1,000-litre mark. These aren’t for personal use, but for industrial use. IBC tanks are fairly lightweight however, as they are constructed from HDPE (high-density polyethylene), which is a strong, non-reactive plastic polymer that can be easily shaped and cost-effectively produced.

An IBC tank is designed with industry in mind, so these heavy-duty containers are commonly sold in conjunction with a protective steel cage. This cage is made from galvanised steel, ensuring that it too is long lasting and robust. The shape of an IBC tank with the cage attached allows it to be fixed to wooden, steel or plastic pallets. This design means that IBC tanks can be moved around using industrial equipment (such as forklifts) and, where necessary, stacked for storage and transport.

An IBC tank can also be kitted out with an impressive number of attachments and accessories. These include different bungs and nozzles to make filling and emptying the tanks more efficient, as well different covers to protect against rain, dust and UV light.

What Are IBC Tanks Used For?

The primary use of an IBC tank is to store different forms of liquids or semi-solids in a safe and secure manner. UN rated IBC tanks are capable of storing chemicals, solvents, industrial goods and even hazardous products, while a food-grade IBC tank can be used to store large amounts of drinking water, spices and other types of foodstuff.

The diversity of their usage is incredible, so here’s a brief rundown of the major jobs that IBC tanks perform and the major industries that use them:

  • Water storage
  • Chemical storage
  • Fuel storage
  • Construction and building industry
  • Automobile industry
  • Aviation industry
  • Medical and pharmaceutical industries
  • Catering industry
  • Gardeners
  • Supermarkets
  • Events organisers

An IBC tank is used for other roles too, including storing large quantities of water to help with firefighting or for large public gatherings such as festivals. IBC tanks can be converted at the end of their lifespan into water catchers and rainwater holders in gardens, or put to use to meet any other manner of household storage needs.

What Can I Store in an IBC Tank?

Given the large number of industries that regularly use IBC tanks to meet their business needs, it’s no surprise that there’s an impressive range of goods that can be stored inside an IBC tank.

The most popular things stored in IBC tanks include:

  • Drinking water
  • Rainwater
  • Chemicals
  • Solvents
  • Pharmaceutical and medical compounds
  • Paints and other decorating materials
  • Building and construction materials (e.g. sand)
  • Oils and lubricants
  • Liquid or semi-liquid foodstuffs and ingredients (e.g. large quantities of spices, milk powder or syrups)

The list goes on…

We should note that while IBC tanks are UN rated (when they’re new and not repurposed or recycled) you should always check that they’re suitable for any potentially hazardous or corrosive materials you need to store. Fuel, such as petrol or diesel for example, is better stored for the long term in a steel drum rather than an IBC tank to avoid degradation of the plastic.

How Do You Clean an IBC Tank?

It’s important that an IBC tank is regularly cleaned and inspected for any damage or degradation that may have occurred during the storage or transport of goods.

The simplest way to clean an IBC is to flush out remaining residue (once it’s been emptied of its contents) with water. However, this is only recommended if the IBC is going to be used again for the same purpose.

Cross-contamination is always a concern, so if you’re changing the contents of the IBC then make sure the IBC tank is professionally cleaned and decontaminated between uses. This is particularly important if storing industrial materials, chemicals or potentially hazardous goods in the IBC tank.

Anyone storing industrial chemicals needs to ensure that any cleaning products or solvents they use to decontaminate an IBC tank won’t react with the materials previously held in the tank. Health and safety precautions need to be taken, too, when cleaning an industrial IBC tank.

Additionally, while IBC tanks are certified as food grade, they shouldn’t be used to hold consumable goods once they have previously been used to store anything that’s potentially hazardous to human health. Even if they have been decontaminated, it’s not worth the risk!

What Sizes Do IBC Tanks Come In?

IBC tanks are produced in a range of sizes. However, the standard and most popular size of IBC tank is the classic 1,000-litre model. This intermediate size is perfect for storing industrial quantities of liquid, while allowing those liquids to be safely moved and transported when necessary.

A standard 1,000-litre IBC tank with protective steel cage weighs around 60 kilos when empty, and if filled to the brim with water would weigh a total of 1,065 kilos. In terms of its dimensions, a 1,000-litre IBC tank measures 1,000 x 1,200 x 1,152 mm.

Contact ITP Packaging Today to Find Out More About IBC Tanks

An IBC tank is the perfect industrial-sized container for a range of liquids and semi-solids. Whether it’s water, chemicals or foodstuff, ITP Packaging’s 1,000-litre IBC tanks are guaranteed to suit your needs.

If you’re looking to source high-quality IBC tanks for your business, then don’t hesitate to contact ITP Packaging today for more information.

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